Preamble to the Uniting Church Constitution, paragraph 3:
The First Peoples had already encountered the Creator God before the arrival of the colonisers; the Spirit was already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony…
I spent yesterday morning at an interfaith forum on disability inclusion, and the afternoon with a group of leaders talking about the new preamble to the Uniting Church constitution, and what that means to the first and subsequent people of Australia.
It was one of those days where you realise that nothing much else matters but getting this stuff right. And I was left with my normal reaction: a sickening sense of the overwhelming, insidious nature of white, abled [male] privilege that puts it in a place where it can choose whether or not, who or not, to include.
In the afternoon, Ken talked about the deeply transformative act of the preamble, not its words. The words are sacramental: they make something happen that is bigger than the words. ‘The preamble is important,’ Ken said, ‘because it includes me. Being not included is a terrible, terrible thing.’
I’m beginning to see that inclusion is one of those nasty terms like ‘permission giving’. It implies there is the option of not including, or of not giving permission. It gives someone the choice about another’s participation. It gives power.
I also hate the language of mission, because it starts with an ‘us’ who has something to give to ‘them’. I looked up Luke 10 last night, when i was thinking about the history of missions in australia. The only thing Jesus instructed the followers to say is ‘peace to this house’. Nothing else. And ‘peace to this house’ was a standard, common greeting. They were instructed to leave those places where their words weren’t welcomed. What if they were actually out finding the places already living for peace in the world, not searching for a mission field ripe for the taking? What if they were searching for the places that resonated with their story of life, a story that already existed in those places – not specific to christianity, or to Jesus’ preaching? What if they were being sent out to learn, not to give? There’s nothing in the passage about taking a story into those places.
Imagine how different Australia’s history would have been if that was the story of invasion.
I was thinking yesterday that i’d love to see a resource that puts stories from different traditions together – a christian story of rituals of belonging alongside an indigenous story of rituals of belonging. Not to theologise or ecclesiologise; simply to honour the belief that those customs, ceremonies and laws also tell a story of life. We talked about how that might come to be – Ken was saying that those stories will only ever come out after weeks of sharing life. Which illustrates Luke 10 again… And i guess that’s the challenge i need to think about.